An endeavour to identify children with disabilities at a young age and intervene to help in order can enable a stimulating environment where families, health care, and education professionals are adequately adapted to support the development, inclusion, and active participation. Furthermore, it can facilitate timely, effective and adequate access to specialized care, whenever needed.
The diagnosis of learning disabilities is often ascertained when children begin to exhibit academic difficulties in school, and the average age when children receive learning disabilities assessments is 9 years (Shaywitz, 1998).
The delayed intervention can result in unfavourable, persistent and long-term consequences. Whereas, early identification of children at risk offers the potential to mitigate the negative effects of delayed intervention by focusing on preventive services at an earlier age.
In its attempt at early identification and intervention, fourteen Cross-Disability Early Identification and Intervention Centres (EIC) in various parts of the country were inaugurated. Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment Dr. Thawar Chand Gehlot, along with Ministers of State Shri Krishan Pal Gurjar & Shri Ramdas Athawale virtually inaugurated the centres on Thursday (June 17, 2021) at 11 AM from New Delhi via video conferencing.
This follows a global approach to provide early stimulation to young children to help in reducing the effects of their impairments and also avert disabling conditions in their life. So ‘Catch Them Young’ is the mantra of these centres facilitating inclusive education for children with multiple disabilities.
There are twenty-one disabilities listed in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act of 2016 and providing the services for all different children with disabilities under one umbrella is the aim of these centres. Unlike most of the institutions working for disabilities which are ‘super-speciality centres’, these seven centres will cater to all the children with different disabilities under one roof, thereby reducing the burden of the parents on expenses and reducing the loss of time through one-stop arrangement and multi-professional approach.
A special ‘Toys and Books Library’ is designed to provide the children with an interactive ambience. These centres will also promote a ‘healthy baby and healthy childhood’ program. This apart, exclusive breastfeeding rooms and play areas will also be made available in these centres. The parent and professional partnerships form the core of EIC and hence a special ‘Family Education Room’ is available for the needy beneficiaries at the centre.
These centres will cater to infants and children below 6 years of age as a newborn infant’s brain is said to develop up to 90% by the time the child attains five years of age. These centres are the result of the decision taken by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities under the Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MSJ&E) to set up a ‘one-stop arrangement’ where all the disability services from assessment to intervention will be available for varying disabilities under one roof.
This will include a Mumbai centre in the premises of Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Speech & Hearing Disabilities (AYJNISHD (D), apart from centres located in 6 six national institutes and seven Composite Regional Centres (CRCs) spread in various states. A handbook on EIC for children with Disabilities (Divayangjan) will also be released in course of the online event.
These 14 centres will be unique in providing facilities such as developmental screening, assessments of cognition, hearing, vision and speech and therapeutic management of various disabilities in a child-friendly ambience. In every centre, there are specific facilities of intervention for occupational and physiotherapy, speech therapy, early educational intervention and preparatory classes for school readiness.
These centres are now available at the national institutes in Mumbai, Chennai, Secunderabad, Delhi, Dehradun, Kolkata, Cuttack and also CRCs in Bhopal, Nellore, Kozhikode, Sundernagar, J&K, Lucknow & Naharlagun will cater to many children who are found to have overlapping effects of disability and some have multiple disabilities.